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Effects of Roads and Traffic on Wildlife Populations and Landscape Function: Road Ecology is Moving toward Larger Scales

Rodney van der Ree, University of Melbourne
Jochen A. G. Jaeger, Concordia University Montréal, Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, Quebec, Canada
Edgar A. van der Grift, Alterra, Wageningen UR, Netherlands
Anthony P. Clevenger, Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University, USA

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Abstract

Road ecology has developed into a significant branch of ecology with steady growth in the number of refereed journal articles, books, conferences, symposia, and “best practice” guidelines being produced each year. The main objective of this special issue of Ecology and Society is to highlight the need for studies that document the population, community, and ecosystem-level effects of roads and traffic by publishing studies that document these effects. It became apparent when compiling this special issue that there is a paucity of studies that explicitly examined higher order effects of roads and traffic. No papers on landscape function or ecosystem-level effects were submitted, despite being highlighted as a priority for publication. The 17 papers in this issue, from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and USA, all deal to some extent with either population or community-level effects of roads and traffic. Nevertheless, many higher order effects remain unquantified, and must become the focus of future studies because the complexity and interactions among the effects of roads and traffic are large and potentially unexpected. An analysis of these complex interrelations requires systematic research, and it is necessary to further establish collaborative links between ecologists and transportation agencies. Many road agencies have “environmental sustainability” as one of their goals and the only way to achieve such goals is for them to support and foster long-term and credible scientific research. The current situation, with numerous small-scale projects being undertaken independently of each other, cannot provide the information required to quantify and mitigate the negative effects of roads and traffic on higher levels. The future of road ecology research will be best enhanced when multiple road projects in different states or countries are combined and studied as part of integrated, well-replicated research projects.

Key words

animal movement; animal-vehicle collisions; barrier effect; ecological threshold; gene flow; habitat fragmentation; mitigation; population viability analysis; road ecology; road-effect zone; traffic mortality; traffic noise; traffic volume; transportation planning
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087